Draft 2011: Looking back to the lottery

If there’s one word to describe Utah’s position heading into the 2011 NBA Draft it’s “happy.”

General manager Kevin O’Connor represented the Jazz at the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery in Secaucus, N.J. Tuesday evening and walked away a satisfied customer.  His team entered the festivities as one of only two franchises with two chances of landing the top pick, the other being the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

In the early stages of the lottery process, the Jazz watched one of those chances secure the 12th overall pick.  The other, originally in the hands of the Nets’ but later traded by virtue of the Deron Williams deal in late Feb., left the Jazz with 75 chances out of 1,000 four-digit combinations, or a 7.5 percent chance of landing the first pick.  The pre-lottery law of probability had the franchise slated at sixth overall.

With a little luck of the draw, O’Connor found himself standing front and center alongside Cleveland representative Nick Gilbert, son of Cavaliers general manager Dan Gilbert, and Minnesota representative and general manager David Kahn for the final drawing of the last three picks.  While the standoff did not produce the overall best result, later drawn in favor of the Cavs, it still provided Utah with an opportunity to beat the initial odds and upgrade to a higher spot in the upcoming draft.

“Once we got to the top three I thought maybe we could get further up, but [I’m] happy,” said O’Connor.  “Thrilled to go from six to three.”

Last season the Jazz selected Butler’s Gordon Hayward ninth overall and later added Western Kentucky’s Jeremy Evans with the 55th pick in the second round.  Their collective progress on the team was slow and steady, but there’s certainly a youth movement of sorts picking up in Salt Lake City.

“They’ve been terrific.  They’re getting better,” said O’Connor.  “We’ve got a lot of good, young players and a nice nucleus around them and hopefully we can add a few good players in the draft.”

Hayward contributed 5.4 points per game in 16.9 minutes per outing last season while Evans received just 9.6 mpg and averaged 3.6 points per.  A number of high-flying dunks courtesy of the 6-foot-9 Evans provided just a small glimpse into the bright future that awaits in Utah, one that grew even brighter with the midseason addition of Derrick Favors, New Jersey’s third overall pick in 2010.  Favors registered 8.2 ppg for the Jazz last season and added 5.2 rpg on his way to second-team All-Rookie honors.

O’Connor will take Utah’s third and 12th overall picks to the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. on June 23 with the hopes of adding a little more youth and depth to the roster.  As last year’s additions continue to improve, there is no question that the Jazz are a young team on the rise.

“They’re still in the 26, 27 and 28 age range,” said O’Connor.  “They still haven’t hit their peak.”

QUOTES:

Kevin O’Connor, Utah Jazz
General Manager

Third Overall Pick

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the outcome tonight?
O’Connor: We went forward. Anytime you go forward, it’s a success. It’s been good for us to move up in the draft. We gave up a premium player in the league in Deron Williams, so hopefully we can make something work.

Q: How important is it to take advantage of the fact that you were able to move up?
O’Connor: I think for the franchise’s sake, when you have an opportunity to swing up there, you want to make sure you pick a good one. We haven’t had a chance to swing up there very often but we like the idea of having the opportunity

Q: Is there potential to draft a player that will have an immediate impact?
O’Connor: Most of the young players play on teams that struggled the year before.  They help their teams, but they don’t help them win right away.  We are probably a little further along, so hopefully we can incorporate somebody that fits into what we’re doing.  It is not necessarily the first 30, 60, 90 or 100 games.  It’s the first three years and where they are at the end of that.